India on Monday announced that Bangladesh’s first President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the former Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said Al Said, would be awarded the Gandhi Peace Prize for 2020 and 2019.

Popularly referred to as “Bangabandhu” or the “friend of Bangladesh”, Rahman was killed along with most of his family in a 1975 Bangladeshi Army coup. Qaboos, West Asia’s longest-ruling monarch, died in 2020 after receiving cancer treatment in Europe since at least 2014.

In a statement, India’s Ministry of Culture said the jury, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and founder of Sulabh International Bindeshwar Pathak, met on March 19 to decide on the recipients for the annual prize. The award carries an amount of Rs 1 crore, a citation, a plaque and an exquisite traditional handloom item.

The culture ministry said Rahman was chosen in “recognition of his outstanding contributions towards social, economic and political transformation through non-violent and other Gandhian methods”.

In the announcement for the prize, Modi called Rahman “a champion of human rights and freedom” and a “hero” to Indians. The Union government’s statement said the Gandhi Peace Prize recognised his unparalleled contribution towards inspiring the liberation of Bangladesh and for promoting peace and non-violence in the Indian subcontinent.

Modi will visit Bangladesh on March 26 and 27 to attend the celebrations to mark the birth centenary of Rahman and 50 years of the war of liberation of Bangladesh. This is Modi’s first foreign trip since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

2019 Gandhi Peace Prize

About the 2019 Gandhi Peace Prize award, the government said Sultan Qaboos was a visionary leader, whose twin policy of moderation and mediation in addressing international problems won him respect across the globe. “He had studied in India and always maintained a special relationship with India,” the statement said. “Under his leadership, India and Oman became strategic partners and our mutually beneficial, comprehensive partnership strengthened and scaled newer heights.”

The ministry said the award recognised his leadership in strengthening the ties between India and Oman and his efforts to promote peace in the Gulf region.